My last six weeks in London went by in a blur. Almost every weekend had something going on so I took advantage of my time left there and it was a great time. Here are some highlights in no particular order:
- Beach Day
One day, Kylie and I decided we should see more of England. A lot of my students were going on about how great Norfolk was so, as it was warm and sunny, we decided to make the trip. We woke up early and caught the train. It was about a 3 hour ride, the last portion of which was on one of the strangest and smallest trains I’ve ever been on that was full of families and “country folk” that we didn’t see too often in London. They were entertaining, to say the least. Norfolk is a seaside town and, when we arrived, we only had the beach in mind. For those of you from Ontario, I compare Norfolk to a Grand Bend or Wasaga Beach. There are tacky shops and arcades along the beach, as well as a boardwalk. We spent most of our day laying in the sand, we got ice cream cones and we even played a round of mini-putt. We walked around town, got ciders in a pub along the water and ended the day with a pub meal. It was a great day-trip from London and it was really nice to see some more of the country.
- 10 km Race
When I moved to London, I obviously wanted to get outside and explore so, I took up some hobbies that would let me do so. One of them that has stuck is running. All my life I have been a runner on and off but the weather in London, being as temperate as it is, gave me no excuses. It became my thing. It was a great way to relieve any stress and felt great after sitting at a desk marking papers all day. I would run through a park where, in the spring, the tree would blossom with bright pink flowers and the ducks would be swimming in the creek. I would go through Dalston and run along the Regent’s Canal with the picturesque house boats. There was one boat that would sometimes have a little book shop open as well and it was great to see everyone out on a sunny day having a pint along the water as I ran by with my headphones in. So that I had a goal, I even signed up for the Nike Women’s 10km Run. It was a great event and I loved the opportunity to run with a massive group of women. Even Ellie Goulding was there to cheer us on! It was my first organized run and now I feel like an old pro! Since then I have done a 5km in Toronto and recently signed up to do an organized 200km bike ride.
- Fleetwood Mac
When I used to drive a 1997 blue Subaru Impreza, I only had a tape player. The tape I listened to the most was definitely my Fleetwood Mac greatest hits album. I loved every single song on that thing. While I was in London, I would often be cooking in the kitchen or marking papers with the same album playing, much to the dismay of my roommate who expressed that he “wasn’t the biggest fan”. One day, the same roommate mentioned that Fleetwood Mac was in town that week. The very minute he mentioned it, I was online looking for a ticket. I was able to buy a last minute, single ticket for the next day. I had never been to a concert alone but I have always wanted to see Fleetwood so nothing was going to stop me. When they stepped on stage and started singing The Chain, I almost cried it was so good. I was singing along to all of the songs and they all sounded amazing. Lindsay Buckingham still has it too on the guitar. I tell everyone, it was the best concert I have ever been to. I can honestly say it was refreshing going by myself as well because I could just focus on how great the music was. Some people might think it would be weird being alone at a concert but I think it just goes to show that you should always do what you want and not worry about what others might say or about being lonely. As I always say at events like these, when are you ever going to see those people again?
- Ellie Goulding and Taylor Swift
The same week I saw Fleetwood Mac I went to see Ellie Goulding and Taylor Swift at Hyde Park in London. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a big T-Swift fan. I have listened to her music since I was in grade 10 and so I knew I would regret not going. Plus, her album 1989 is fantastic. I went with my lovely friends Dayna, Petrina and Alex and we had a great time. I actually called it more of a singalong than a concert because everyone was singing. With a crowd of 60 000 in Hyde Park, that’s a lot of voices. It was great though. At one point, there was a chant going through the crowd and I turned to Dayna and said, “what the hell are they saying?” then realized they were saying “Tay-la”, the British pronunciation of her name. I broke out in a fit of giggles. I mean, she said her name was Tay-LOR, what are you saying?
- VE-Day Anniversary
One weekend, Ali and I got together to check out the celebrations for the 70th Anniversary of VE-Day. It was a gorgeous day to walk through St. James park with an ice cream in hand. The park had been turned into an almost museum with old tanks, planes, and vehicles from the war scattered around the grass. As a history major, it was truly amazing to see and it was mind-blowing to think that we were in a country that was so greatly affected by the war, especially London itself with the Battle of Britain. We also went to Trafalgar Square where they had the Royal Guard band playing all sorts of songs from God Save the Queen to the 1970s classic September. It was great to see the respect for history in that country and it was also interesting to note how grand and formal many of their celebrations are. There is something just regal about a man in a red suit with a fuzzy black hat on… even if he is playing disco.
- Picnics in the Parks
Throughout my time in London, I visited parks regularly. First of all, they’re free. Second of all, we had an amazing spring and summer weather wise, and third, it’s like everyone and their mom lounges in parks all the time over there. I loved it. Being outside with a great view, or just people watching is so entertaining. I mentioned Primrose Hill earlier and of course, I went there regularly, but we also visited Hampstead Heath, a gorgeous park in North London with great views of the city. There was nothing like sitting in the tall grass, eating strawberries and drinking a cider with friends.
- Canada Day in London
Another great day in London was Canada Day. I had never had a Canada Day celebration outside of Canada so I felt extra patriotic. It just so happened that that day was also the hottest day ever in London, to the point where trains were canceled because the tracks were too hot. It was sticky but fun. I cut the sleeves off of a Canada Hockey shirt and donned my maple leaf earrings and, with my Australian Kylie in tow, headed to Covent Garden. After almost getting heat stroke on the bus, we made it to the small streets that were acting like ovens with the heat bouncing off of them. There is a Canadian themed bar called the Maple Leaf that a lot of people go to but, as it was crazy busy, we went to the bar across the street that also had celebrations going on as well as an outdoor patio. The bar was prepared with icy buckets of Moosehead beer waiting to cool us down. It was so Canadian with everyone milling around outside. More than once the crowd broke out in Oh Canada. Needless to say, it was a memorable Canada day and made me both sad, because I was going to miss London, but also excited to head on home.
And head home I did. On July 15th 2015, my time in London ended. It was one of the best experiences of my life but I was ready to come back. I had felt like living over there was putting my life back here on hold. I never went to London with the intention of staying. I knew it wasn’t a forever move. I was ready to come back and start building a life and seeing what else Canada had in store for me. While it hasn’t been all that easy over here, I do feel like I have found a place I want to stay for a very long time: Hamilton.
Until next time,